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Children's LiteratureAGERANGE: Ages 8 to 12.
Jonathan Starling lives alone with his father, but he might as well be on his own. His father is frequently ill and spends much of his time locked alone in his study. One day Mr. Starling falls ill and goes to the hospital. Jonathan decides to stay home alone instead of going to a neighbor's house, but something strange breaks in. Jonathan hides in the mysteriously-open study and calls for help. When his neighbor gets there, no one is in the house, but there are huge scratches on the door behind which Jonathan was hiding. Jonathan learns that his father is ill so often because he used to visit Darkside, a secret London. When Jonathan is pursued by some strange men and a woman with hypnotic perfume and brightly colored hair, Mr. Starling rouses enough to tell Jonathan to go to Darkside and seek out Carnegie, a man who supposedly will keep Jonathan safe. But Darkside is aptly named--werewolves and vampires populate this part of London, which is run by the descendants of Jack the Ripper. And for some reason, they all seem to be out to get Jonathan. The first book in the "Darkside" series is a fast-paced fantasy/horror adventure, full of fascinating characters, intense situations, and superb plot twists. The only detraction from this excellent story is the character of Raquelle, a Darkside servant girl who is mostly portrayed as tough-talking and brave but who does sometimes slip into a stereotypical girl role, grasping at Jonathan's arm and calling out to him for protection. While this should not particularly deter readers, it is irksome when it goes against the character that has already been established by other brave actions, such as stealing the car of hervampire employer to help Carnegie and Jonathan. Reviewer: Kathleen Foucart